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Anti-Semitic purges in places of employment

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'Banana youth': rise of propaganda
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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[Q] Do you think the reason why workers didn't support the students was only because the wrong information was given out?

It's hard to say whether this was just down to the wrong information. Information is undoubtedly the most necessary condition for anything to occur. But there were some elements of the propaganda that had been started which could have caught on. It was under the caption, 'banana youth', meaning those who ate bananas which, as everyone knew, were hardly ever available in Polish shops, and are still hard to come by. So the 'banana youth' had daddies who were doing too well for themselves. Here, surprisingly, the press made allusions to sons of party dignitaries, as if in a country ruled by communists it was especially shameful and disgraceful to be the son of a party dignitary, despite which there was this propaganda, plus the recurring theme – Zionists – that Zionist forces were behind everything, except, of course, by Zionists everyone just meant Jews. No one could treat the word Zionist seriously and when at the time this was used as an insult directed at specific people, it was obvious that perhaps one of them really was a Zionist, but I think it would have taken a long time to find one. Sometimes people who were called this were simply communist party activists. They might have formerly been associated with the PPS [Polska Partia Socjalistyczna (Polish Socialist Party)] or something similar. Sometimes, they were intellectuals with no party affiliation. Now all of a sudden it turns out that they were this great Zionist force and it had inspired the students. This marked the start of a complete orgy of anti-Semitism which seemed incredible. If anyone remembers what was allowed and what was forbidden, what could and couldn't be written in the press about this previously, anti-Semitism wasn't acceptable in the press until around '60. Nowak – Zenon Nowak – and the Natolin group were able to bandy these slogans around, but it wasn't the case that whichever paper you picked up was anti-Semitic. So this came as something of a surprise. This great harshness, there were many people who sensed the danger in this, taking into account that fact that I don't support the theory that the majority of Poles have almost a natural tendency to be anti-Semitic. Yet anti-Semitism has a big, ancient and deeply-rooted tradition with us, and it's not hard to come across an anti-Semite in Poland, in fact, it's very easy. So in this situation, the way the press were blowing up the issue could have been dangerous. This is more dangerous than the attempt to win supporters by using these slogans. It could evoke certain actions not unlike the pogroms or something similar.

[Q] A czy sądzi Pan, że jedynie dezinformacja była powodem tego, że robotnicy nie poparli studentów?

Trudno mi powiedzieć, czy tylko dezinformacja. Niewątpliwie poinformowanie jest pierwszym warunkiem niezbędnym, żeby coś się stało. No, ale niektóre elementy propagandy, która się zaczęła mogły chwycić. To było pod tytułem, że „młodzież bananowa”, synowie... „młodzież bananowa”, czyli ci, którzy jedzą te banany, których jak wiadomo na rynku w Polsce prawie nigdy nie było i zresztą nadal rzadko kiedy można je kupić. Więc „młodzież bananowa”, której...tutaj za dobrze się ich tatusiom powodzi. Tutaj o dziwo robiono jeszcze takie aluzje w prasie, że to są synowie dygnitarzy partyjnych, tak jakby to w Polsce rządzonej przez komunistów była rzecz szczególnie wstydliwa i haniebna być synem dygnitarza partyjnego, a jednak mimo to była taka propaganda, no, plus ten motyw – syjoniści – że za tym wszystkim stoją siły syjonistyczne, z tym że oczywiście przez syjonistów rozumiało się po prostu Żydów. Nikt się...poważnie nie mógł traktować słowa „syjonista” i kiedy wówczas tym wyzwiskiem „syjonista” obrzucano różnych konkretnych ludzi, no to było wiadomo, że może któryś z nich był naprawdę syjonistą, ale myślę, że to by trzeba było długo bardzo szukać. Przeważnie ci, których tak nazywano, byli to czasami po prostu działacze partyjni, komunistyczni. Byli to czasami ludzie, którzy dawniej byli z jakimś dawnym PPS-em czy czymś takim związani. Czasami byli to bezpartyjni intelektualiści. I oni wszyscy, nagle się okazywało, że to jest jakaś ta potężna siła syjonistyczna, która zainspirowała studentów. No, zaczęła się orgia zupełna antysemityzmu, której się po prostu trudno uwierzyć, zarówno kto przypomina sobie, co wolno było, a czego nie wolno, co należało, a czego nie należało pisać w prasie na te tematy przed tym. To nie był...antysemityzm nie był czymś takim, co by na przykład gdzieś do roku '60 było dobrze widziane tak w prasie. To Nowak, Zenon Nowak czy grupa „natolińska” mogła rzucać takie hasła, ale to nie było tak, że od...że którąkolwiek gazetę się nie wzięło do ręki, to była... to było to antysemickie...Także było to pewne zaskoczenie. Ta ostrość wielka, no skądinąd wielu ludzi czuło zarazem tutaj pewne niebezpieczeństwo tego, biorąc pod uwagę, że ja nie popieram tej tezy, że Polacy to tak są w swojej większości i niemalże z natury rzeczy antysemitami, niemniej u nas antysemityzm ma bardzo duże, stare i głębokie tradycje i z antysemitą w Polsce nie jest trudno się spotkać, jest to przeciwnie, bardzo łatwe. Więc jeszcze w tej sytuacji takie pompowanie przez prasę, no może być nawet po prostu niebezpieczne. To jest coś bardziej niebezpiecznego niż to, że na takie hasełka chce się pewną ilość zwolenników złapać. Za tym mogą pójść pewne czyny, no przypominające pogrom czy coś takiego.

Jan Józef Lipski (1926-1991) was one of Poland's best known political activists. He was also a writer and a literary critic. As a soldier in the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), he fought in the Warsaw Uprising. In 1976, following worker protests, he co-founded the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR). His active opposition to Poland's communist authorities led to his arrest and imprisonment on several occasions. In 1987, he re-established and headed the Polish Socialist Party. Two years later, he was elected to the Polish Senate. He died in 1991 while still in office. For his significant work, Lipski was honoured with the Cross of the Valorous (Krzyż Walecznych), posthumously with the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1991) and with the highest Polish decoration, the Order of the White Eagle (2006).

Listeners: Marcel Łoziński Jacek Petrycki

Film director Marcel Łoziński was born in Paris in 1940. He graduated from the Film Directing Department of the National School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź in 1971. In 1994, he was nominated for an American Academy Award and a European Film Academy Award for the documentary, 89 mm from Europe. Since 1995, he has been a member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science awarding Oscars. He lectured at the FEMIS film school and the School of Polish Culture of Warsaw University. He ran documentary film workshops in Marseilles. Marcel Łoziński currently lectures at Andrzej Wajda’s Master School for Film Directors. He also runs the Dragon Forum, a European documentary film workshop.

Cinematographer Jacek Petrycki was born in Poznań, Poland in 1948. He has worked extensively in Poland and throughout the world. His credits include, for Agniezka Holland, Provincial Actors (1979), Europe, Europe (1990), Shot in the Heart (2001) and Julie Walking Home (2002), for Krysztof Kieslowski numerous short films including Camera Buff (1980) and No End (1985). Other credits include Journey to the Sun (1998), directed by Jesim Ustaoglu, which won the Golden Camera 300 award at the International Film Camera Festival, Shooters (2000) and The Valley (1999), both directed by Dan Reed, Unforgiving (1993) and Betrayed (1995) by Clive Gordon both of which won the BAFTA for best factual photography. Jacek Petrycki is also a teacher and a filmmaker.

Tags: Zionists, PPS, Polish Socialist Party, Natolin, Zenon Nowak

Duration: 3 minutes, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 11 March 2011